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Small Community Theater, Big Names

Today, the Sheridan Opera House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the Sheridan Arts Foundation (SAF). The non-profit venue benefits a number of local charitable organizations, community endeavors, and small businesses while still bringing in A-list talent.

Past Performers at the Sheridan Opera House

Artists include but are not limited to:

A-B

  • Aziz Ansari
  • Ashford and Simpson
  • Band of Heathens
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Sarah Bernhardt
  • Big Head Todd and the Monsters
  • Big Richard
  • Big Something
  • Black Pistol Fire
  • Blind Pilot
  • Nicki Bluhm
  • Booker T
  • Jackson Browne
  • Jimmy Buffett
  • Eric Burdon
  • Carol Burnett
  • Sam Bush

C-D

  • The California Honeydrops
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Keith, David and Bobbie Carradine
  • Chubby Checkers
  • Marc Cohn
  • Judy Collins
  • Shawn Colvin
  • Con Brio
  • Rob Corddry
  • John Craigie
  • David Crosby
  • Rodney Crowell
  • Jeff Daniels
  • Deer Tick
  • Brett Dennen
  • Detroit Wheels
  • Devotchka
  • Dirtwire
  • Dirty Dozen Brass Band
  • Dopapod
  • Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers
  • Dustbowl Revival

E-F

  • Steve Earle
  • Elder Grown
  • Elephant Revival
  • Emancipator
  • Samantha Fish
  • The Floozies
  • Donovan Frankenreiter
  • Michael Franti
  • Freddy Jones Band
  • Fruition
  • Futurebirds

G-H

  • G. Love and Special Sauce
  • Galactic with Erica Falls and Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph
  • Ghost-Note
  • Lillian Gish
  • Greensky Bluegrass
  • Macy Gray
  • Arlo Guthrie
  • Trevor Hall
  • Ed Helms
  • Rob Huebel
  • Paul Horn

I-J

  • The Infamous Stringdusters
  • Israel Vibration
  • Chuck Jackson
  • Jay & Silent Bob/Kevin Smith & Kevin Mewes
  • Jewel
  • Jacob Joliff Band
  • Jerry Joseph
  • Wynonna Judd & the Big Sound

K-L

  • Hal Ketchum
  • Nick Kroll
  • Patty Larkin
  • Late Night Radio
  • Leftover Salmon
  • Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Lissie
  • Darlene Love

M-N

  • Magic Beans
  • Taj Mahal
  • Jason Mantzoukas
  • Stephen Marley
  • Marvel Years
  • Matisyahu
  • Del McCurry
  • James McMurtry
  • Michal Menert
  • moe.
  • Monophonics
  • Dudley Moore
  • The Motet
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Nahko & Medicine for the People
  • Billy Nershi
  • The New Mastersounds
  • Nickel Creek
  • Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  • North Mississippi Allstars
  • Tig Notaro
  • The Nth Power

O-P

  • John Oates
  • Tim and Mollie O’Brien
  • Oh Hellos
  • Opiuo
  • Ozomatli
  • Papadosio
  • Neyla Pekarek
  • The Polish Ambassador
  • John Popper
  • Grace Potter
  • Billy Preston
  • John Prine
  • Joe Pug
  • Punch Brothers

Q-R

  • Joshua Radin
  • Railroad Earth
  • Robert Randolph and the Family Band
  • June Diane Raphael
  • Riders in the Sky
  • Rising Appalachia
  • Johnny Rivers
  • The Chris Robinson Brotherhood
  • Smokey Robinson
  • Daniel Rodriguez
  • Mitch Ryder

S-T

  • 2nd II None
  • Melvin Seals
  • Martin Sexton
  • Dee Dee Sharp
  • Sinbad
  • Shovels & Rope
  • SoDown
  • Ben Sollee
  • Son Little
  • Sissy Spacek
  • Spafford
  • Steep Canyon Rangers
  • Patrick Stewart
  • The String Cheese Incident
  • Sunsquabi
  • The Temperance Movement
  • Chris Thile
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Trampled by Turtles
  • Trout Steak Revival
  • Tanya Tucker
  • KT Tunstall
  • Turkuaz

U-V-W

  • The Wailers
  • Keller Williams
  • Mary Wilson of the Supremes
  • The Wood Brothers
  • Victor Wooten

X-Y-Z

  • Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary
  • Yonder Mountain String Band

The Sheridan Opera House has a long and colorful history…

Early History: 1890 – 1915

Up until the late 1860s, various Ute tribes inhabited western Colorado. As mining interest swelled in the early 1870s, nearly all territories were forcibly taken from the indigenous people living there, triggering an exodus into Utah Territory.

During the 1880s, the town of Telluride, briefly known as Columbia, quickly blossomed into a small, mining-supported community. With the arrival of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad in 1890, more people, supplies, equipment and raw materials were able to move in and out of town with greater ease. With a peak population topping 5,000, Telluride bustled with energy and a need for entertainment.

Saloons and bars soon shot up by the dozen as banks, schools, churches and police departments slowly followed suit. A red light district along East Pacific Avenue was quickly established as masses of men eager for a drink and female company returned to town after weeks of hard labor in the mines. The tax collected from the red light district sex workers helped fund infrastructure and city improvements throughout the late 1800s.

After a series of mine fires, avalanches and mining strikes at the turn of the 20th century, Telluride finally began to stand strong again by the end of the first decade. By 1909 the Telluride district had produced $60,000,000 in mineral-rich ore, with around $13,000,000 coming from the Liberty Bell, Smuggler-Union and Tomboy mines in just six years of operation.

This immaculate mountain setting became the attraction point for railroad excursions, picnics, circus acts and riding clubs. As high culture blossomed, wealthy mine owners and aristocrats began to host lavish parties, balls and evenings of entertainment.

It was in 1912 that J. A. Segerberg, manager of the New Sheridan Hotel, recognized Telluride’s need for a venue to host such events. With his eye on the laundry facility behind the hotel, Mr. Segerberg quickly began to develop the plans for a three-story intimate opera house. Wanting to settle on nothing less than the best, he traveled to Denver to meet with the top construction firms the state had to offer. From these meetings, Segerberg’s vision came to life. The October 31, 1912 edition of the Telluride Journal describes his endeavor.

“The interior of the proposed opera house will be about 30×40 feet exclusive of the stage… There will be no posts to interfere with the view of the stage as the roof will be double trussed. There will be a small balcony in the rear of the building which will be hung from the ceiling so there will be no supporting post to interfere with the view of those sitting under the balcony… The building of this new opera house will attract more and better shows and entertaining troupes here and the people of this community will then be treated to the very best in the amusement way.”

The Segerberg Opera House would also be unique in artistic style. An unknown, highly skilled, artisan delicately painted floral stencils all throughout the theater interior to help create a scene of warmth and color for those looking to escape the cold, dark outdoors. The original decorative painting of the Opera House is a rare example of the transitional period between the Art Nouveau style of the late 1800s and the Craftsman style of the 1920s.

Construction of the Segerberg Opera House was completed in July of 1913. The venue quickly became home to many traveling troupes, moving pictures and high class events. The opera house was built with connecting floors to the lavish New Sheridan Hotel, enabling prominent entertainers of the period including Sarah Bernhardt, Lillian Gish, and speakers such as Socialist Presidential Candidate Eugene Debs, to go directly from their rooms to the stage. Famous entertainers and audience members such as Williams Jennings Bryant (a frequent visitor to both the New Sheridan Hotel and the opera house) brought national attention to this 238 seat “jewel box” of a theater.

The following year, on July 27, 1914, a devastating flood rushed down Cornet Creek and tore its way down North Oak Street. Mud and rocks literally moved and flattened houses along the way, burying people and the New Sheridan Hotel in nearly ten feet of debris. By a stroke of luck the slide moved around the Segerberg Opera House on both sides, leaving the building entirely unharmed.

Mid-Century History: 1916 – 1980s

Telluride began to suffer culturally and financially when prohibition took effect in Colorado on January 1, 1916. While many residents were able to find their fix through black market liquor purchasers, saloons in town were forced to close, and patronage at the opera house nearly ended. Prohibition lasted 18 years, and the Segerbergs were finally forced to close the theater doors by the early 1930s.

It was also in the late 1920s and early 30s that skiing shifted from being a mode of transportation around the mines to a recreational pastime for many locals. The Telluride Ski Club operated from 1924 -1925 and with the help of many enthusiastic locals, six different rope tow lifts were built on the mountain from 1937 – 1963.

Renamed the Sheridan Opera House

The Segerberg Theater reopened for organized programming in the early 1960s. Renamed the Sheridan Opera House after the neighboring New Sheridan Hotel, the opera house once again became home to live entertainment and movies.

In the 1970s, Telluride reinvented itself. When the Telluride Ski Resort opened in 1972, the character of the town shifted into a society focused on community, tourism and being unlike any other destination in the country. To feed this unique atmosphere, many festivals, music and performing art events began to grow and operate year round. In 1973, Bill and Stella Pence founded the now famous Telluride Film Festival, using the Sheridan Opera House as its primary movie theater.

Within a few years, the Pences purchased and remodeled the dilapidated building, altering the history of the theater’s interior and making it home to the Telluride Film Festival. R.N. Williams and J.W. Lloyd purchased the building from the Pences in 1983, adding a new entryway, conference room and the third floor Vaudeville Bar.

The Creation of the Sheridan Arts Foundation: 1990s – 2010s

In 1991, the Sheridan Opera House was in a severe state of disrepair and in jeopardy of commercial development. Sandra and Keith Carradine founded the Sheridan Arts Foundation as a 501(c)(3) non-profit to undertake the project of restoring the crumbling building together with the Town of Telluride and the Colorado Historical Society. In addition to maintaining and restoring the Sheridan Opera House, the Sheridan Arts Foundation was created to bring quality arts and cultural events to Telluride & provide local and national youth with access and exposure to the arts through education.

  • Initial renovations were designed to be in three phases taking a total of ten years to plan, develop and complete. The most critical projects were prioritized including the repair of the crumbling facade, a reconfiguration of the fire exit and installation of a fire and alarm system.
  • In Fall 2009 and Spring 2010, the Sheridan Arts Foundation fulfilled its final renovation commitment by restoring the original decorative stenciling within the theater. In 2013, the SAF installed a vestibule to create a historically accurate entryway. In 2019, over $100,000 was raised from the community to replace the 70+ year old theater seats and install new carpet.
  • To date, the Sheridan Arts Foundation has spent $2,414,818 to restore the historic Sheridan Opera House. Learn more about our extensive restoration efforts here. Fundraising for maintenance and restoration of our 1913 building is constant and ongoing. You can specifically donate to historic restoration here.

Present Day

With the critical support of local and national donors, as well as numerous granting agencies, the Sheridan Arts Foundation continues to fulfill its three-part mission to protect and preserve the historic Sheridan Opera House as an arts and cultural resource for the Telluride community, bring quality arts and cultural events to Telluride & provide local and national youth with access and exposure to the arts through education.

In addition to the over $2.4 million spent on the restoration of the Sheridan Opera House, highlights of the Sheridan Arts Foundation include:

Wild West Fest program: hosting 30-50 youth from various Boys and Girls Clubs across the country in Telluride for a week of confidence-boosting activities including the Chip Allen Mentorship Program each summer since 1992. Children attend at no cost to their families.

Programming: The Sheridan Opera House is in use approximately 250 days a year, with 70 nights of programming from the Sheridan Arts Foundation, an additional 70 nights of programming or private events from renters and over 100 days used for Young People’s Theater rehearsals. Notable performers include Smokey Robinson, Shawn Colvin, Darlene Love, Chuck Jackson, Jackson Browne and Jewel.

Telluride Plein Air: hosting nationally renowned plein air artists since 2004 to paint the architecture and landscapes in the Telluride region and raise necessary general operating and programming funds.

Young People’s Theater: involving 250 local youth ages 2-18 each year, producing three full-length musicals and a variety of classes.

Rental Subsidies: subsidizing rent to local non-profits, schools and small local businesses averaging $80-$100,000 each year.

Support the Sheridan Arts Foundation.

The theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and remains home to the Sheridan Arts Foundation (SAF). This historic landmark has become a non-profit venue benefiting a number of local charitable organizations, community endeavors, small businesses as well as Boys and Girls Clubs of America and some of today’s top performers. We need the help of tax-deductible donations to continue to make a difference.